Death of a celebrity
You have to wonder whether our culture is robust enough to survive the death of Jade Goody.
Non-British readers probably need to be told that Ms Goody is the most repulsive, rebarbative result yet thrown up by our oxymoronic "celebrity culture." She's a 27-year-old who, in 2002, became notorious as the youngest contestant on the fatuous TV reality show "Big Brother." Despite the fact that she had at the time been evicted from her subsidised council flat owing £3,000 in unpaid rent and was facing jail over her unpaid council tax bill, it wasn't enough to earn her the sympathy of viewers, and she only came fourth.
She then made a career of being an obnoxious misfit, losing weight, having a documentary about her that ensured lots of tabloid coverage, having a couple of babies, named Bobby Jack and Freddie, splitting from the father of the kids - though not before they had appeared together on "Celebrity Wife Swap." You get the idea, sub-trailer trash tabloid slebs.
Now Ms Goody appears in the papers bald (and even a little bit winsome). Her hair has gone because of her treatment for cervical cancer, which has now spread, and she expects to die, very soon and very publicly. In the meantime, sleb slimeballs' agent Max Clifford is looking after her affairs, and she (or her estate) looks set to garner £1m, says the Guardian. In an "exclusive" interview she gave last week to Britain's sleaze-sheet News of the World, she said: "I've lived my whole adult life talking about my life. The only difference is that I'm talking about my death now. It's OK. I've lived in front of the cameras. And maybe I'll die in front of them."
Even the Government has thrust its hands in Ms Goody's pitch - and defiled itself. Tomorrow, Sunday, 22 Feb., she is to marry her fiancé Jack Tweed. The only problem is that this young man is subject to a curfew that was a condition of his early release from prison where he was serving a sentence for assaulting a teenager with a golf club. The hopelessly silly Justice Secretary Jack Straw has interceded to allow his thuggish namesake to spend his wedding night and the next day until 3.0 with his blushing bride. She'll be wearing a wedding dress given to her by another sympathetic character, the saintly owner of Harrods, the mad fantasist Mohamed Fayed.
Jade Goody is the most glaring example of the degradation of British popular culture. She's sold 113,000 copies of her first autobiography (astonishing though it is that she can read, let alone write), appeared in loads of rubbish telly programmes, and has launched a perfume. Can you imagine anyone wanting to smell like such a person? The fickle public sometimes despised her - in 2006 for crapping out of the London Marathon after 21 miles, having prepared for it by eating loads of junk food and takeaway meals; and in January, 2007, when she was accused of being a racist bully on another Big Brother bugger-up.
OK, Ms Goody deserves some pity. Dysfunctional dad was a heroin-addict pimp who abandoned her and her mother, "Jackiey," whom the Times describes as "a clipper - a woman who pretends to procure prostitutes for clients then runs off with the money."
The only good thing Ms Goody will ever have done in life is to see that her children profit by her death sufficiently to have the education she so strikingly lacked. This is entirely commendable. But isn't there something morally wrong (and not just in bad taste) about the subject of her imminent death being the topic of editorials in the serious newspapers and the lead story on news broadcasts? Aren't we all a bit soiled by the filth of a sad, bad life lived so publicly and profitably? This is the logical development of celebrity culture, whether it's the upmarket tosh of Vanity Fair or Tatler or the underclass nastiness of Hello!
Of course, maybe I'm totally wrong. Maybe some Verdi, Puccini or Berg will come along, set the life and death of Jade Goody to music, and transform this tawdry vita brevis tale into art.
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